Musicians, Singers and Dancers Perform in the One Nation One Culture Cultural Festival

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By Taleen Babayan
(Special to the Mirror-Spectator)

LODI, N.J. — A multitude of Armenian artists and performers, hailing from the diaspora and Armenia, were showcased at the “One Nation One Culture” Cultural Festival at Felician College in Lodi, on Sunday, November 15.

Organized by the Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society of Eastern USA, under the auspices of Minister of Diaspora Dr. Hranush Hakobyan, the nearly three-hour program highlighted different aspects of Armenian culture and art, including performances by four dance ensembles of New York and New Jersey, a young choir group, a dhol group and the talents of singers Alla Levonian and Babin Boghosian. This fusion and collaboration resulted in a diverse and thoroughly enjoyable program.

Following the singing of the American and Armenian national anthems by talented baritone Vagharshak Ohanyan, welcoming remarks from Zarmair Setrakian, chairman of Hamazkayin Eastern USA Regional Executive, and a video message from Hakobyan, all four dance groups, including AGBU’s Antranig Dance Ensemble, Yeraz Dance Ensemble of St. Sarkis Armenian Church, Akh’tamar Dance Ensemble of St. Thomas Armenian Church, and the Nayiri Dance Ensemble of the Hamazkayin Educational and Cultural Society, entered the auditorium from the three main aisles, walking by the  audience  members, and joined each other on stage, forming the Paradon Ensemble, for the opening number of the afternoon.

Babin Bogosian emerged on stage enthusiastically to sing in the opening, which also featured Karine Hasasian playing the kanoun, Grigor Pogosyan on the dhol and Lilit Khachatryan as a vocalist. Following the captivating opening, Bogosian remained on stage to sing Tou Orora, Tou Shorora with the Nayiri Dance Ensemble.

The “Pert Bar,” performed by the Yeraz Dance Ensemble, wowed the audience as the male members of the group stood on top of one another’s shoulders to create a tower. Other dances included Akh’tamar’s “Kughagan” and Antranig’s “Shourch Bar.” The first half of the program concluded with a beautiful kanoun solo by Karine Hasasian and the voices of the New Jersey Hamazkayin’s Arekag Children’s Choir who sang three songs, including Getashen.

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Opening the second half was singer Alla Levonian from Armenia, performing a few of her signature songs before being joined onstage by the Yeraz Dance Ensemble who danced “Mokhrats Harsner.” Levonian, who exuded much grace and charm, interacted with the audience. At one point, she asked for the lights to be turned on so she could connect with everyone’s eyes in the room. Later, she asked the audience to join her in singing. Another highlight of the second half was the New Jersey Hamazkayin dhol group, under the leadership of Garo Kahvejian.

The theme of the evening — “one nation, one culture” — was echoed in the recorded words of Karine Kocharian’s poem, which symbolized a unified Armenia by highlighting the different regions where Armenians live. Kocharian wrote five one-stanza poems about each region, including Western Armenia (diaspora), Artsakh, Nakhichevan, Javakhk and Armenia. As the recorded poem was played, the 100 dancers comprising the four dance groups were seated on stage. Two little girls representing angels entered the stage and with each stanza that was read, walked around the stage and threw rose petals on the six groups of the evening. By the end, both sides of the stage were lit up with red, blue and orange lights, culminating in a touching finale.

All of the talents participated in the finale, where Boghosian entered and the Paradon ensemble’s 100 dancers performed a piece choreographed by Gagik Karapetian. Boghosian sang, Yertank Sasoun, Mdnenk Van and Artyok Ovker En. Levonian joined everyone on stage as the performers took their bows. The singers and performers were called on stage to receive floral bouquets.

Each of the group’s directors was recognized, and awards were presented to them by the Hamazkayin Eastern USA Regional Executive Zarmair Setrakian and local Hamazkayin chair, Hasmig Aprahamian and Garen Nazarian, Armenia’s representative to the UN. Award recipients included: Paradon artistic director and choreographer Gagik Karapetian, Joyce Tamesian-Shenloogian, director and choreographer of the AGBU Antranig Dance Ensemble, Sylva Asadourian, director and choreographer of the Akh’tamar Dance Ensemble, Karnig Nercessian and Lena Orangian, directors and choreographers of Yeraz Dance Ensemble, Arpina Ovsepian, director and choreographer of the Nayiri Dance Ensemble, Vagharshag Ohanian, director of the Arekag Children’s Choir, and Garo Kehvejian, director of the Hamazkayin Dhol Group.